I did not do well at school. I left in the summer of 1976 feeling a “failure” at age 15. Like lots of kids, the chalk n’ talk, cram for exam methods didn’t go so well for me. Teachers even took the trouble to tell me that I would get nowhere in life. It was quite a few years before I was to even entertain the notion that I might have abilities and strengths that could serve me well in life and work…

My older brothers also left school young, and with little to show for it. One now oversees multi-million dollar Capital-Build projects for the Victorian Courts System in Australia; the other has his own successful media and public relations business.

And we three are far from unique. There are lots of people out there who struggled with conventional academic schooling, a fair few of whom go on to succeed in life and in work (however they measure “success”).


So when I first read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence in mid-1990s, it had a huge impact. The very idea that IQ (the Intelligence Quotient) was not the only measure of “intelligence” was a revelation to me at that time.


Goleman’s argument is essentially that IQ in and of itself is a poorer predictor of success in work and in life than are our ability (in an increasingly complex world) to;

  • Manage our own emotions (in other words intrapersonal skills, such as awareness, self-regulation, motivation)
  • Relate well with others (aka interpersonal skills; able to empathise, communicate, establish and maintain relationships)

Goleman’s book led me to Howard Gardner’s work on “Multiple Intelligences” (Frames of Mind, 1983) which predated the work of Goleman.[1]

Intelligence Comes in Many Forms

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory incorporates interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence (the basis of emotional intelligence) with a further six distinct areas of ability;

  • Linguistic intelligence, use of speech, tone, intonation, languages, conversation, writing…
  • Spatial intelligence, three-point-turns, dancing without standing on other’s feet, estimating distance, proximity, dimensions, “the inner-eye”
  • Musical intelligence, playing instruments, writing music, singing, sense of rhythm, “tuned-in” to music, moods
  • Logical intelligence able to recognise patterns, define processes, use step-by-step thinking, reasoning, enquiry
  • Physical intelligence, flexibility, agility, stamina, endurance, fine motor control, manipulating objects, space
  • Naturalist intelligence, aka in tune with nature, patterns of life, the natural environment, ecology

Both Gardner and Goleman articulate a compelling case for a more expansive and inclusive view of intelligence; that goes beyond literacy and numeracy (core elements of the IQ model) to incorporate both social and emotional abilities, and other creative talents and strengths. They certainly won me over!

Just before signing off…

I do need to add that I know fine well there are today (and were back then) great teachers out there doing brilliant stuff. All power to you guys!

 Looking back, I had one teacher, affectionately known as “Pud Lawson”. He was a figure to be feared, as he had a selection of belts (the tawse, as we say used to call it) and wasn’t shy to give out a few lashes, but when he taught history, he made it so very interesting and relevant, bringing the subject to life.

No other teacher at school came close to that. And yes, I remember him more for the great teaching than the tawse, even though I was “belted” way more than once by “Pud”!


Further reading online:

 Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences and Education

A comprehensive outline of Gardner’s theory…


 Multiple Intelligences Test, based on Howard Gardner’s MI Model, in PDF for download


[1] Howard Gardner (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences  / Daniel Goleman (1995, 2003) Emotional / Social Intelligence

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